California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, joined by 14 other states, sued the Bush administration over its refusal to let them enforce bigger auto emissions cuts than those required by the federal government.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency unreasonably delayed action on his two-year-old request for a waiver of a federal air pollution law, according to a complaint filed today in Washington federal court. The waiver is needed before California and other states can enforce rules requiring automakers to cut by 30 percent over eight years carbon dioxide and other tailpipe gases related to global warming.
``We are taking another big step forward in battling global warming,'' Schwarzenegger said at a news conference in Sacramento. ``Our health and environment are too important to delay any longer. I think it's now time to step it up.''
The EPA decision on the waiver is important for automakers because the 15 states that have or plan to adopt carbon reduction rules represent as much as 40 percent of the U.S. car market. The rules, opposed by the industry, require emissions cuts starting next year and would block sales of cars that exceed the limits.
California's law, when fully implemented, would require new cars to travel an average of 43 miles on a gallon of gasoline, according to some estimates. Current federal rules call for 27.5 miles per gallon for cars and 22.2 miles for light trucks.
Automakers back legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that would require cars to average 35 miles per gallon and light trucks 32 miles by 2022.
The EPA said it will decide whether to grant the waiver by the end of the year. That decision may spark yet another lawsuit by California if its request is rejected, or by car companies if the waiver is granted.
``We will sue again, and sue again until we get it,'' Schwarzenegger said at the news conference.
This year, he repeatedly sent letters to President George W. Bush urging him to have EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson approve the waiver.
Schwarzenegger also met in Washington with Johnson to demand the waiver after the U.S. Supreme Court on April 2 ordered the Bush administration to reconsider its refusal to regulate emissions linked to global warming.
``My commitment to the governor is to make a decision by the end of the year and I am working to see that we meet that commitment,'' Johnson said today.
The Clean Air Act, passed by Congress in 1970 to regulate air pollution in the U.S., requires states to seek a waiver if they want to exceed federal standards. The EPA has granted California 40 waivers in the past three decades on other clean- air standards.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing General Motors Corp. and eight other automakers, sued to block the California rules. California accounts for more than 10 percent of new auto sales in the U.S.
Schwarzenegger said as many as 14 states, including New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, are expected to join California's lawsuit.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said in a statement today that the other states have filed papers to join the case. ( Bloomberg )